Turquoise tales

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

-- THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF TURQUOISE: MEDITATIONS ON LANDSCAPE, ART, AND SPIRIT . Ellen Meloy . Pantheon . July 2002 . Price US $24 . p352

Clear-eyed and candid, Meloy, a naturalist and writer, uses a clever mix of humour and narratives about the paradoxes of life in the American desert. This book is a brilliant weave of natural and human history. She uses the many-faceted story of turquoise, "the stone of the desert", revered for centuries by Navajo and Persians alike and turquoise "the colour of yearning", Meloy declares.

She then explains piquant tales of turquoise seas, the Yucatan Peninsula and the ruins of plantations in Bahamas. Interspersed are interesting anecdotes about small creatures such as anoles and cacti. Also transporting the reader to harsh reality are life's ugly bits like nuclear test sites and the politics of border crossings.

The 'Anthropology of Turquoise' is perhaps best described as a non-fiction novel and travelogue on the natural history. Meloy's narratives and dialogue sparkles with sassy wit and earthy poetry; her descriptions are rooted in daily life but are also on familiar terms with the eternal. The sensitivity and thoughtfulness, the rich knowledge of and love for the natural world and specially the deserts she admires and is awed by, are so obvious. The book is more like a story in verse. A must-read for nature lovers.

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